Former Spanish spy Roberto Flórez during his trial for treason against Spain (Archive/EFE)
The National Intelligence Center (CNI) has once again been in the eye of the storm in recent days. This time, however, not for spying on the Catalan independence leaders with the Israeli Pegasus software, but for having been betrayed by two of his own employees. According to what has emerged, two of its agents had been providing sensitive information to spies from the United States Embassy in Madrid for some time, who have already left the country at the request of the Spanish Government.
The CNI, dependent on the Ministry of Defense, discovered the existence of these double agents last September and one of them – with a long history within the intelligence service – has remained in prison since then. However, this is not the first time that La Casa, as those who work in it call the center, suffers from the existence of a mole and, in fact, the new traitors have been able to be apprehended thanks to the procedures established years ago, after What happened with Roberto Flórez: the spy who sold himself to Putin’s Russia for 145,000 euros.
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Before becoming the first, and so far only, convicted of treason in the democratic history of Spain, Flórez had a respectable resume within the CNI. Born in 1965, he joined the Civil Guard at the age of 19 and was recruited by the intelligence service in 1992, along with other agents who would be assigned to the Basque Country, to spy on ETA.
Soon Flórez displayed great social skills that led him to quickly establish ties with members of the terrorist group. “He had people skills and managed to make important relationships, at a fairly high level, within the band,” a general who met him, when the scandal had already broken out, told El País about him. first decade of this century.
In 1997, the CNI decided, given the risk of being discovered by ETA, to transfer him away from Spain, to Peru. In Lima, Flórez worked as an assistant to the information attaché of the embassy and, once again, he used his audacity and recklessness to infiltrate the upper echelons of political power, specifically, in the Perú Posible party, the party that In those years it was the opposing force to the government of Alberto Fujimori. He was so good at his job that, during his stay in the capital of the Andean country, he earned the trust of Alejandro Toledo, who years later would become president of Peru.
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However, his true identity came to light in 2000. A journalist from the newspaper La República, after making some calls to the Spanish embassy, published a report that generated a great stir in Lima and caused Flórez’s immediate return to Spain. . This is where the spy’s story goes awry.
Back in Madrid, Flórez maintained contacts with agents of the Counterintelligence Division, especially those linked to operations in Russia, a country to which he was even assigned in January 2004, although he only stayed there for a month before asking – it is said how forced- the withdrawal of the intelligence service. Everything indicates that, once again using his audacity, Flórez violated some security regulations and lost the trust of the CNI. The House still did not suspect, or so they later claimed, what his agent had been doing in recent years and they let him go.
Since 2002, the CNI had seen its operations in Russia neutralized by Vladimir Putin’s intelligence service. But it was in 2005, when one of its Russian collaborators disappeared as if the earth had eaten him (some time later it was learned that he had been detained), that the center became aware that they had a serious problem inside. Suspicions that would end up being confirmed with the help of the CIA.
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The investigations led, in 2007, to the arrest of Flórez, who had retired to live in Puerto de la Cruz (Tenerife). A copy of a letter sent, in December 2001, to the Russian Embassy in Spain offering his services as a mole was found at his home. In it he requested the payment of 200,000 dollars (145,000 euros at that time) in exchange for information about the CNI’s secret operations in Russia.
During the trial, it was revealed that Flórez had provided, between 2001 and 2003, numerous confidential reports to the SVR, the intelligence service inherited from the KGB of the times of the Soviet Union. Much of this sensitive documentation was also found in his home in the Canary Islands. In 2010, Flórez was found guilty of having betrayed his country and sentenced to 12 years in prison, which the Supreme Court would later reduce to nine. Currently, the first CNI mole is free after having served his sentence.